Currently Browsing: Civil Liberties
May 6, 2015
Two years ago, Defense Distributed was preempted by the state Department from posting plans for the Liberator Pistol online, arguing they were a controlled munition. Many of us in the tech business got a strong case of deja vu, remembering a similar government assertion in the 1990s that didn’t end up going all that well for the government.
In that grand tradition, Cody Wilson of Defense distributed has filed suit against the State Department, arguing First Amendment grounds. Lest anyone think this is some kind of fringe suit, it has the backing of SAF, and Alan Gura is among the attorneys on the case.
The New York Times describes this as “trailblazing,” but really this is just a continuation of the argument that happened over encryption in the 1990s. I predict this will not go well for the government. It shouldn’t go well for the government.
Mar 19, 2015
If you just claim that it’s “for the children,” our new Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner (an import from Maryland) seems to argue that theft is okay – especially if you’re stealing from those who criticize you in your official role as a public servant.
Marcus Brown is facing opposition for appearing in uniform that creates the perception he graduated from the state police academy, which he did not. When a critic had signs printed pointing out that he shouldn’t wear such things that he did not earn and legally placed them on a public area, Brown apparently decided to steal them in the name of “[his] children” since their bus stop is nearby.
Now, stealing someone else’s signs from a public area is a crime. You’d think that means Brown would be apologetic for getting caught on video committing this crime, but he’s standing by his theft proudly – behind the back of the spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State Police.
I’ll be honest, if I lived out there, I’d be very tempted to have signs made up that say “Marcus Brown Stop Stealing Signs,” “Marcus Brown Stop Trying to Silence Critics,” and “Marcus Brown The First Amendment Applies in Pennsylvania, Too” and plaster them all over public areas to the degree allowed by law. There wouldn’t be a corner he could turn where he wouldn’t be reminded that Pennsylvanians value their freedom of speech and ability to speak their mind on what public officials are doing with their office.
Funny enough, the video that captures him stealing the signs in the name of “safety” for his children shows him leaving up non-critical signs in the same spot. It’s pretty clear he’s abusing the right of those who disagree with him and there is no safety issue involved. The video makes it appear that he singled out their message to be silenced based on the content critical of him and he now admits to taking the sign. Perhaps his stationary order got mixed up and he thought that being in charge of the Pennsylvania State Police was being charged with overseeing the Police State of Pennsylvania.
Mar 13, 2015
I had to take a couple of breaks from this Atlantic piece on how awful it is that the First Amendment allows unpleasant people to say unpleasant things in an unpleasant manner.
Yes, freedom does mean that some people will live and speak in a different manner than you – maybe even in a way that is offensive. Speaking out and telling them how offensive they are is often a great tool to get them to quiet down. In fact, such results might even be considered social shaming, which is a form of punishment that exists outside of government. It involves things like individual people making the decision to no longer support the people who offend them and letting them suffer social consequences that can often be extremely unpleasant. However, the Atlantic writer appears to believe that since such punishment doesn’t involve a police gun to the head, handcuffs, and a court room, it’s not actually any punishment at all.
I think what really got me going was the extreme elitism on display in this bit:
No one with a frontal lobe would mistake this drunken anthem for part of an uninhibited and robust debate about race relations. … If the First Amendment has become so bloated, so ham-fisted, that it cannot distinguish between such filth and earnest public debate about race, then it is time we rethink what it means.
It would seem that the argument is that if you can’t speak eloquently and aren’t engaged in thoughtful debate, then your First Amendment rights should be “rethought.”
I have to say that one reason this elitism on speech probably drove me a little more up the wall today is because I just witnessed someone in another forum who, to be blunt, is currently incapable of speaking eloquently or engaging in what the writer would consider “earnest public debate.” While her form of rather odd text speak at all times is nearly impossible for others to follow, that doesn’t mean the government needs to declare that she deserves less in the way of protection for her speech than what I deserve because I am likely capable of being more articulate in expressing the same things.
Freedom means that some people will make different choices that you don’t like. The beauty of freedom is that when those people are in charge, you can make the choices they don’t like and feel confident that you won’t be put away for the “crime” of those statements and actions.
Feb 25, 2015
Emily Miller’s application for a carry permit was approved. About time.
My guess is they figured that doing so and hoping she went away was better than the alternative
Jan 28, 2015
According to the ACLU, the DEA and ATF were conspiring to use license plate readers at gun shows. Presumably all this was because, war on drugs, and because, terrorism or something like that. You have to wonder with as pervasive as the surveillance state is becoming, with technology enabling it to ever greater heights, how long we have until there’s de facto registration even without the government even needing to resort to 4473s. Just watch a gun range for a while via drone or satellite, and just start compiling a list. Soon you won’t even need people to do this. You won’t even need to specifically focus the camera on the gun range. It’ll all be done algorithmically by computers, compiling tons and tons of data to be called up and analyzed any time the powers that be want to scrutinize someone.
The scary part is, I don’t know if there’s a good way to stop it. The chest pounders among us would perhaps suggest such a state deserves “Second Amendment remedies,” and it’s hard to argue that such a persuasive surveillance state has any legitimacy. But the technology will be there. Would you trust anyone with it?
Dec 22, 2014
From the Washington Post (of all places), comes this piece on the normalization of the surveillance state via a childrens’ book.
(My wife and I are both in agreement on this; we won’t have the little informer in our house).
Incidentally, I find it interesting that you apparently have to break an ingrained more against “tattling” or “telling.” There is something very low-level in our makeup (either social, culturalm or genetic) that works against providing negative information to an authority (be it parental or outside the family unit).
Sep 24, 2014
The Express-Times in Lehigh Valley area decided to attack those concerned about potential constitutional violations in an op-ed, saying that those who have had their rights violated and want to stand up for them are merely “opportunistic” and too concerned with themselves to put up with a “temporary intrusion” that has lasted at least a week.
They even highlight a quote from the Pennsylvania State Police’s PR guy that assures us that not all people are completely cut off from their homes. Citizens can trust that if the police think you actually have a good reason to go to your home, then they will be the ones to decide if/when you get access, and only under escort if they like your reasons for wanting to go home.
So, I’d like to know how the Express-Times staff would react to the news that the state police argue that their coverage of the events is helping the suspect evade law enforcement. Sure, they have no actual evidence that the suspect has access to their papers, but it’s a possibility that he might be in the area and using the resources to evade them – like he might possibly be hiding out in every single car in the area or every home in the area.
Therefore, the police ask that the Express-Times stop publishing their paper during this “temporary intrusion” and that any efforts to argue that they have a First Amendment right that must be respected is a case of them being “opportunistic” and overly greedy with their Constitution rights claims.
Some public relations officer will remind their editors that they aren’t really blocking all access to their publishing equipment – because if the police determine there’s any message worth hearing, then they will provide an armed escort to any reporter or editor they hand select to supervise their limited visit to the printer.
I find it hard to believe that the Express-Times staff wouldn’t be on the phone to lawyers trying to argue for their Constitutional rights. Why are they condemning anyone else who is concerned that in specific instances, perhaps law enforcement have gone too far and actually crossed the line into violating someone’s rights?
According to another report on the situation, attorney Josh Prince has already talked to someone who was forced out of their home, despite having three dogs there, and has been refused access to care for them since Sunday. It was Tuesday when that story was posted. The New York Times found a man who was thrown to the ground and detained in handcuffs just for going to his own home.
Regardless of what the public relations officer is telling the media, it’s clear that there are reports from those forced to leave that the police are keeping people away from their homes. If they aren’t keeping them away from their homes, it’s clear that at least some officers have gotten a little too quick to act against local citizens. Any lawyer who is helping someone understand their rights – and whether or not they have been violated – should be applauded.
Sep 22, 2014
I can’t tell you how much I loved seeing a post from Pennsylvania attorney Josh Prince asking anyone in Pike and Monroe Counties to contact him if their rights have been violated based on an article linked here earlier today. I would love to see more people considering legal challenges to behavior like this from law enforcement when they cross the line and violate someone’s rights.
UPDATE: And, he actually provides tips on how to document everything regarding the violation of rights that one would need to create a good case.
Also, check the comments of both posts and note the people who are horrified at the idea that some lawyer is trying to let people know what to do to prepare a legal case if their rights are violated. They don’t understand why anyone has an issue with rights being violated as long as they are told someone is keeping them “safe.”
Sep 22, 2014
The manhunt for an accused cop killer is heating up in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I should be clear that I hope the State Police catch this guy, since regardless of whatever grudge one may have against cops in general, singling out two random officers for execution is unconscionable. But my support for the PSP in their manhunt is greatly tempered when I read of nonsense like this:
Heavily armed state troopers guarded an entrance into a neighborhood or area where they believe 31-year-old suspected cop killer Eric Frein may be hiding.
Police are checking every vehicle leaving. Local residents still have not been able to get back into their homes since last night, with some sleeping in shelters, others in their cars as it appears police are hot on Frein’s track but still haven’t got him.
No, you don’t get to kick people out of their homes and randomly search vehicles just because it’s a cop killer. You wouldn’t do that for someone who murdered a convenience store clerk, and you know it. You don’t get to suspend the Constitution just because its one of your own. This is what makes people hate cops in the first place.